Family of incapacitated Hacienda patient who gave birth sues physicians

The family of an incapacitated woman who was raped and gave birth at Phoenix-based Hacienda Healthcare in December 2018 is suing her physicians, their employers and the state of Arizona, reports 3TV and CBS 5 affiliate Arizona's Family.

The physicians named in the suit are Phillip Gear Jr., MD, who treated the patient between 1992 and 2018, and Than Diep Nguyen, MD, who started treating her in September 2018, three months before she gave birth at Hacienda. The employers cited in the lawsuit are Phoenix-based Just 4 Kids Pediatrics and Tempe, Ariz.-based Internal Medicine Consultants.

The suit, filed Dec. 24, alleges that an employee reported the possible sexual abuse of five residents at Hacienda's long-term care facility, including the female patient, to local police in 2002. Upon learning of this situation, the patient's family requested that male employees do not provide one-on-one care for her, unless accompanied by a female counterpart.

The patient's family first filed a notice of claim against the defendants in May, claiming that letting former Hacienda nurse Nathan Sutherland provide one-on-one care for the woman on "hundreds of occasions" violated the family's request. Mr. Sutherland was arrested in January 2019 and charged with sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse after DNA evidence matched him to the woman's baby. Mr. Sutherland has pleaded not guilty to the charges and will face trial in February.

Hacienda defended its staffing decisions after the notice of claim was filed, saying Mr. Sutherland passed his background check before he was hired and had all necessary accreditations. In addition, Hacienda spokesperson David Leibowitz said the family's request for female staff members, documented on a 2017 Individual Support Plan form, applied to caretakers — not physicians or nurses.

The suit alleges medical negligence and seeks compensatory and punitive damages of an unspecified amount.

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